Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day doesn't need to make you Vulnerable.

It's amazing how one day can have so much of an effect on us. Whether we admit it or not, most of us can think of a time when Valentine's Day has come around like a kick in the face. Especially when you're in high school. No matter how much you say "This day is stupid" to everyone you see, somehow by the end of the day you still feel inadequate because you didn't get some cheap gift from guys you probably don't really like anyway. Or more invisible when that guy you have been wanting to notice you, still doesn't.

I've never really celebrated Valentine's Day. But that doesn't stop it from coming around. And unless you stay in bed all day, it's going to confront you at some time during the day especially if you're feeling vulnerable.

My suggestion is to redefine the day for yourself. Rather than thinking about the 'love' you're not getting from others and think about what love really is. Most of the time on Valentine's Day, if we're feeling bad it's normally not about real Love. We feel insecure, unpopular, or unnattractive. And normally we're comparing ourselves to other people and basing our value on what others think of us.

I like to think about it differently. I take Valentine's Day as a chance to remember the love God has for us - the kind of love that is shown through him choosing to create us personally, and to send his son to die for us! We never need to feel insecure about his love for us.

And it's the kind of love that, as we realise the fullness of it for ourselves, spills over onto other people. Other people who may not know that this love exists.

So why not do things for other people on Valentine's Day (and every day, but lets use this day as a reminder). When you stop waiting around for someone to make you feel good, and do things for others you often end up feeling far better. When you give away love, it doesn't diminish, it increases.

This year I've made cup cakes for the staff at school just as a little gesture of appreciation. One year when I was in high school I gave a little heart chocolate and a note to every student in the school (it was a small school :)  The times that I did things like that, I may still have had a feeling in the back of my mind of "Has anyone noticed me?" but it was quickly outweighed by the thought of making someone else happy. Even if brightened the day of maybe one person who was feeling vulnerable then that's enough.

Do something for others, and something that reminds you of your worth and value, and God's love for you. Make cupcakes for your friends. Write letters to friends or family members telling them how much you love and appreciate them. Have a Valentine's Party with friends - not a pity party, as in 'poor us, we're all single', but a party that celebrates your friendship and the fun you have together.

Thank God for creating you and for all the wonderful qualities and talents he has given you. God doesn't make mistakes!

What are your ideas for an uplifting and self-pity free Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being A Woman...doesn't mean taking away a man's role.

(Now reuploaded since the audio got switched off.)

Right after recording this video, I got a reminder of how much I really do need to hear this message myself. That night, after recording the video in the afternoon, I found myself getting angry at my husband for what I felt was a lack of appreciation, and for a whole lot of other things until I ended up attacking him on all fronts.... before finally realising that I was doing exactly what I had been talking about in my video.

If I was feeling any distance from my husband, it was because I had pushed him that far away so many times and made it clear I wanted him at arms length because he was cramping my style. I'd made him feel like he wasn't really wanted in my life.

This made it even clearer to me how important it is for me to explore this topic - even if I'm the only one who ever watches my videos. I felt like I was under attack, and the moment I realised I was thinking lies I felt peace again.

When we're on to something, when God wants to do things in us, that's when the enemy is most likely to come in and try and set us off track. And the thing is, he often doesn't have to work very hard at it.

I imagine him coming in, mentioning to us "Remember that thing you were upset about the other day..." then sitting back, putting his feet up and laughing while he watches us self destruct.

He wants us to keep believing the lie that we are always hard done by. That submitting is being weak. That lifting the men in our lives up means we're pushing ourselves down. That to be happy, women have to be independent of men, who are only out to crush us.

We believe these things in varying degrees is so many areas of our lives, but they can be so subtle, or so ingrained that we don't notice them until God points them out for us.

I think this is such an important issue in our society. We have so many family issues but we're starting not to notice it anymore because we see it everywhere. Marriage break-up is becoming so commonplace that we are in danger of thinking of it as the norm. But what is becoming the norm is that women have distorted ideas of their self worth, distorted ideas of how to treat and be treated by men. Men have distorted ideas of what being a man means, of how to treat women, of how they expect they are going to be treated by women. We need to break the cycle.

In Christians' lives, the relationship between a man and a woman is meant to be a reflection of the relationship between the church and God, the bride of Christ.

Ephesians 5:21-33 - the passage in here used to be a standard at weddings, but something has happened in our attitudes that now it receives criticism if you choose it. We chose it at our wedding and had people question why we would choose that verse, as if it was out-dated and old fashioned. But when you look at it closely, it sums up exactly what our relationships are supposed to be between husband and wives and how closely it reflects our relationship with Jesus, so much so that it almost is hard to discern wether Paul is talking about husband/wife or Christ/church at some points. It's pretty clear, and so fundamental I feel like it should be a requirement at Christian weddings.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

There are a lot of reasons why women shy away from even looking at their roles and what might need to change - one is fear. Fear of being let down and or not appreciated by men. Sometimes it's just plain stubborness. But when you look at it this way, 'Submit to eachother out of reverence for Christ' - we're not doing for the other person, we're doing it for God. 

Other Videos

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What are you waiting for?

We're taught to want things immediately, faster,, now, now. We're impatient when things don't happen quickly, and if we have to wait for something we'll often take a different option rather than wait.

I get impatient if a webpage takes more than 10 seconds to load. And if it takes more than 30...well, you may as well forget it.

So when God says
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." Mark 13:32-33

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:43-44

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Romans 13:11-12

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2

this has been interpreted as soon. Our definition of soon. As in, "Ok, I'm ready, where are you?"
But we've been interpreting it as our definition of soon for 2000 years or so.

And I'm sure most of us can think of other times in our lives where we've felt like God was saying he was going to do something, something we needed to be ready for. So we got ready. And then waited. A day, a week, a couple of months. Then when nothing happened, we either got angry at God for not keeping his word, or angry at ourselves for thinking it was God when it wasn't.

Only to discover, maybe even years later, that God's timing wasn't ours. We waited a few months, he was working over a few years. Even a lifetime.

The world teaches us to be impatient, to want things fast and now. The eternal God's definition of now, of soon, is vastly different to ours.

God keeps reminding me of this. He keeps saying to me "What is one year compared to eternity? What is one lifetime compared to Forever?"

That's a frustrating thought when we're in the midst of something we want to change. But it's actually a comforting thought when we really think about it. We know God always keeps his word, so when we know he's not acting immediately on our terms, we can be assured he's got the bigger picture in mind. If God was like the ancient Greek and Roman gods acting on fallible human whims and impulses we'd be in a whole lot of trouble.

We can be thankful God is eternal and knows a bigger picture than we can ever comprehend. Sometimes we just need to be patient.

So why does he use words like 'Now is the time', 'Be alert. Be on guard', 'You must be ready' when he wants us to be patient?

Because patience is not necessarily passive. Patience shouldn't go hand in hand with idleness or complacency. He wants us to wait with expectancy.

So if you are waiting for something, wait with patience, but with hope and expectancy. Expect that God will do great things. For he will, and he already is, even though you may not know it. And it may not come in the form you imagine or want, but we can always be assured of God's perfect Love and Goodness. He will be everything you need.

Wait! Good things are coming! Wait! Never before has the word wait seemed so exciting and promising!
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Lords Purpose Prevails

I was kind of absent from my Blog, and especially YouTube for quite a while over the Christmas break. I'm only human and when I get run down and time gets scarce even things like this, like sharing my thoughts and what God is doing, which is usually uplifting and encouraging for me, get left by the wayside.

But isn't it great that God is nothing like that. No matter what is going on, no matter how chaotic the world is - he's never absent. And so God has still been working in my life, and always will be not matter how long between blog posts, between videos, or even between my meaningful prayers and time with him. God is there waiting for me to come back, even more faithful than the most avid blog follower :)

And when you look back, it's amazing to see the ways God has been working in your life, sometimes without you even realising at the time, and sometimes for years before you even saw the fruits of what he was doing in you.

Just looking back over my blogs, which I've only been doing for about 6 months, I can already see a chain of things changing to lead me to where I am now. And that's just what is visible through my blog posts. Really, he started this work in me a long time ago.

Those blog posts just hint at the ups and downs I've gone through, and are all part of the lesson that God is continually teaching me - to be patient and to trust in his perfect plans. What is 6 months to a God who is eternal. It's just like the blink of an eye.

I've been reminded continually to keep my eyes on Him - on eternity and my spiritual life - rather than being burdened with this physical life. We're just passing through. If we get blinded by the physical life we start to worry about things again, we feel old and tired, hampered by our physical bodies, everything feels heavy.

But when our trust is completely in him we remember that everything is under control and even death has been conquered!

I pray every day for God to remind me of this, so that I can be an example of that to everyone around me who hasn't yet found that there is more to life than the physical. If it's hard enough for those of us who believe in God to remember and feel at peace, my heart breaks for those who don't know Him yet.

I am working as a Christian Pastoral Support Worker (formerly Chaplain) at the High School where I was previously a teacher, and am reminded of my own blog posts as I start this role - especially the one about letting go of things so we can receive what God is giving us.

Only since I've stopped teaching and started this new role have I realised how unhappy I was in teaching. I knew it to some extent, but now that I have this job that I already love I realise how much better I feel about everything in life.

I am grateful for my time as a teacher - I learnt a lot of valuable things. But I am also grateful for not letting fear hold me back from letting go of that job when the time was right.

My prayer for this point in my life is continued patience, open eyes and ears, and a stronger faith to completely trust in God. This new job demands it - a CHRISTIAN pastoral support worker -  it's one role that has no meaning whatsoever without God leading.

I am excited, and scared, but mostly excited at what is in store!

Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thinking of Volunteering Abroad?

I say go for it! It's the only way to travel for me - far better than just going as a tourist. If you're thinking of doing it here's my advice:

1. Go for at least 1 month, but no more than 3.
Two weeks was too short. It's amazing how quickly you can adapt and feel at home in a place, but 2 weeks doesn't give you enough time to really get into the swing of things, experience everything or feel like you've made a difference.

But at the same time, perhaps don't stay for longer than 3 months (in the same place that is.) If you want to volunteer for a longer time, like 6months or a year, perhaps go to several different places. Changing projects or countries will help stop the time there becoming just like going to work. Remember how I said you adapt surprisingly quickly to a new place? It's also true that things become common place pretty quickly and you forget to appreciate it.

The exception to this would be if you have your heart set on a particular place or project for a particular reason, or have been on one before that really meant something to you and want to return with some pupse in mind to make a significant difference.

2. Appreciate Diversity
You will meet a whole range of different people - whether because of culture, beliefs, age, or just personality. If you can't get on with people different to yourself, you'll find it hard. But maybe that's just all the more reason to go and learn to adapt! If you find it hard to meet new people, but want to challenge yourself, go for it. It's worth the discomfort. And if you love meeting new people, you'll be in your element.

3. Go with an open mind.
You can learn something from everyone you meet. And volunteering is a great time to do it, because everyone is there for new experiences and so more open and inquisitive that people generally are at home. Whether it is learning about a different culture or country, either the one your in, or the countries of other volunteers you meet; or learning to be a more open minded person - refering to number 2, the different people you meet, the ones you get along with and the ones that rub you the wrong way (sometimes especially those) can have a really lasting impact on how you see the world and even yourself.

4. Don't be afraid to Go It Alone
I went in a group for this trip, which was fun. But I have also travelled solo before, and I loved it. Normally I'm not the most outgoing person, and feel nervous meeting new people, but travelling alone was great for me. You are forced to go out of your comfort zone, and forced to meet new people because you'll get lonely after a few days not talking to anyone! Plus you can be more approachable than in a group, and you can also be more flexible in your travel plans.

5. Do some touristy things
Just because you're going on a volunteer trip, don't think you're meant to be completely noble and selflesss and not allow some touristy time. Tourism is a big industry after all, and provides a lot of jobs. And even if a place is touristy, it's often because there is something worthwhile seeing there. It became popular for a reason, so don't be put off just because you have to get there on a tourist bus. Plus, living and working in the country will provide you with a lot of opportunities that are off the beaten track and more genuine too.

6. Bring a laptop.
If you're going for a long time, or a short time, it's really helpful to be able to keep in touch with home. Skype will provide you with some of the most frustrating delayed conversations of your life, but it's still good to hear people's voices. And it's good for people at home to be able to see what you're doing and share the experience even though they're not there themselves. Going on a volunteer trip isn't just helpful for the communities you go to, or enlightening for you, but it can be impactful on the people around you at home when you tell them about it. (And if you've fundraised for your trip, people like to see what you're doing with their money ;) And keeping up with what's happening at home can help you not feel so disconnected once you get back.

The obvious exception to this advice is if you're going to a place without electricity or internet. One day I would like to go somewhere where I can't bring my phone and computer, just to force myself out of the reliance on technology for the experience. But international snail mail is slow, and being totally disconnected for a long time can be isolating when you're not used to it. So be easy on yourself.

So go for it! It probably will be challenging sometimes, but we'd never grow if we never did anything out of our comfort zone. And you might suprise yourself with what you're capable of when you take that step!